Giving Parenting A Shot

Weapons found in the bedroom of a 14-year-old former Plymouth Whitemarsh High School student are displayed at the Plymouth Township Police Department in Whitemarsh, Pa.,Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007.
AP/The Intelligencer, Rick Kintzel
Most parents sometimes wonder if they've been good parents or not. We ask ourselves, "Should I have been more involved?" "Should I have been less involved?" "Did I set a good example?" "Did I screw up the kids?" We know we're not perfect and that we've made some mistakes, but we hope that, on balance, we've done a pretty good job. Sometimes we look at other people and wonder if they're better parents than we are. And sometimes we look at other people and we know that we're better parents than they are. This last situation presented itself recently when the mother of a 14-year-old boy who had been feeling unhappy lately, allegedly cheered him up by buying him three guns, including a semi automatic rifle with a laser scope. Feel better about your parenting skills yet?

According to authorities, the 14-year-old told another boy that he had plans to stage a Columbine-like attack on a school. The second boy told his father, he and his dad went to the police, and the cops very quickly went to the house and arrested the boy. So, fortunately, violence was avoided.

In addition to the three guns that his mom allegedly had bought her son, police found videos of the 1999 Columbine attack, approximately 30 air-powered guns, swords, knives, hand grenades, and a bomb-making book. This kid was better armed than some countries.

Authorities said the boy's father also tried to buy his son a rifle back in December, 2005, but was turned down when they found out he was a convicted felon. Dad was then sentenced to house arrest for lying about his criminal record. So, the parents not only knew about the kid's fascination with weapons, but they tried their best to contribute to it. From a parenting standpoint, maybe they thought his collection was an innocent hobby: "Some kids make model airplanes, some collect stamps. Ours just happens to have an arsenal that could blow up a small town."

He kept all the weapons in his bedroom. It's a little scarier than when I was a teenager and boys hid copies of Playboy in their rooms. The worst that could happen from having a collection of those magazine was that a boy could get the impression that all women had tiny waists, huge breasts, and a love for walking on the beach at dawn while trying to think only positive thoughts.

And this kid allegedly didn't even hide his stash of weapons. They were in plain sight in his room. Again, maybe the parents thought, "Other kids display athletic trophies or certificates for academic achievements, ours likes to show off the latest in munitions."

In her explanation for why she allegedly bought her son the guns, the mom reportedly said she was being "overindulgent." Most parents have been "overindulgent" with their kids at times. We've gotten them a toy they didn't really need, or the sleeker looking bicycle, or the more expensive jacket. But an assault weapon? I don't know about you, but it's never crossed my mind.

And if your teenager has felt depressed and picked on for a couple of years, isn't a gun about the last thing you should buy him? I'm sure there's inexpensive therapy available near their home, and I'll bet there's not even a three-day waiting period for it.

But let's not lose sight of something very positive about the story: the other 14-year-old boy. We all know how hard it is for a teenager to talk to his parents about anything, let alone something that one of his peers asked him to keep secret. It's also very hard for kids that age to "tattle" or "rat out" another kid. But this boy had the emotional maturity and the moral fiber to do those things because

he knew they were the right things to do.

His name is Lewis Bennett III, and he is a hero. He may have prevented another school shooting disaster. Lewis made his brave decision on the same day as a shooting at a Cleveland high school. He said, "I didn't want another kid to do the same thing and keep this chain of events going on." None of the news reports gave much information about Lewis, but I know one thing for sure: There's a kid whose mom and dad (left) did a great job of parenting.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver